Now that work is back to the “usual busy” instead of the “I’m losing my mind busy,” I am catching up on the non-urgent appointments for Robert.
We finally got his new helmet – just in time too. Robert and I had gone to pick it up a few weeks ago but the wrong helmet was ordered so we had to wait for the right one to come in. (Robert needs a hard shell helmet, including a hard shell piece covering the back of his head. This piece didn’t come with the first order so a whole new helmet had to be ordered.)
A few days before the right helmet came in, the old one started coming apart and Richard (@kreisler) had to pull out his mad MacGyver skills and, along with the most useful thing ever invented (duct tape), the helmet was able to last until the appointment to get the new one.
Robert loves the new helmet and the tech who helped us was able to fit it perfectly by inserting a super soft padding on the interior and clipping the pointed corners of the padding. These are the little extra touches that only come from care and experience.
Robert had a dentist appointment the following morning. Robert does not have dental insurance but he has Medi-Cal (the California version of Medicaid) and Medicare. Medi-Cal pays for four cleanings a year – if he lives in a board and care facility. Medi-Cal doesn’t pay for any cleanings if he lives with us but does pay for a check-up once a year. (I know – it doesn’t make any sense.)
Robert’s Regional Center rep sent me a list of dentists who take Medi-Cal and I chose a national chain near our house. I asked a few questions when setting up the appointment about the services covered and was told about a $25/year Dental-Cal plan that would cover more x-rays and check-ups throughout the year. I thought that sounded prudent since the seizure medication Robert is on is known to be harsh on the bones and teeth.
Even though Robert is on state (and federal)-funded insurance, we have been spoiled with the excellent care he receives from his PCP, neurologists and the hospital physicians. The doctors truly care for Robert and do not care what type of insurance he has. The doctors all treat me and Robert with respect and truly put in the extra effort to keep Robert as healthy as possible.
We arrived at the dental appointment twenty minutes early. There was quite a bit of paperwork to complete ahead of time and I wanted to be sure giving them the paperwork, copies of the Durable Power of Attorney and his medication list didn’t delay the appointment start time.[As an aside, the health section in the paperwork included a question about “mental retardation.” This term is offensive to me and apparently to the California legislature as well because they passed legislation a few years ago that replaces the use of that term in medical settings with “intellectual disability.” Doing my civic duty, I kindly noted this on their paperwork.]
The receptionist was thrilled with the complete package I handed to her (although I’m certain she hadn’t yet seen my above-referenced note) and told us the dentist didn’t actually arrive until 9:00 a.m. (which was Robert’s appointment time).
We settled into the lobby which was comfortable enough but seemed to have way too many chairs for the size of the room. Since we were the first to arrive, we picked a chair that was easy for Robert to get in and out of while maneuvering his walker. He settled into the chair and for the next fifteen minutes worked on his Word Search puzzle.
We were called back at 9:00 by a nice, young woman who was very patient with Robert. She was the dental assistant who was tasked with doing x-rays. She was extremely sweet with Robert and comfortable with him which is usually a sign that someone has experience with the disabled. Sure enough, she told me her sister was disabled and she cared for her for many years and now helps her mom care for her. I told her how much I appreciated her being patient with Robert when doing the x-rays (he was falling asleep and moving his head which resulted in several retakes of the pictures.) The Dental Assistant whispered she was happy she got Robert instead of some of the other DA’s who would have become frustrated and impatient with him.
Hmm. Red flag.
Once the x-rays were over, we were led to a dental chair and we were able to get Robert comfortably settled in. The dentist came over and introduced herself to me and proceeded to look at the x-rays. She rattled off each tooth and the Dental Assistant wrote down all the existing crowns, etc. in Robert’s mouth. The dentist went through the list again and recited all the things that were wrong and that needed to be fixed. The Dental Assistant wrote everything down and then a gentleman came over to review the list. The dentist clarified some of his questions and then turned to me and said, “He’ll get you a quote.”
Really? I was taken aback because she had not been talking with me or Robert but I heard her list off several crowns, extractions, cavities and other “issues.” I told her that it sounded like a lot of work and I wouldn’t want to put Robert through all of that. She said something to the effect of, “well, yeah, it is a lot” and then stepped away. The gentleman who had taken over told me he would return in a minute with a quote.
Red flag, red flag, red flag.
I really just wanted a check-up and a cleaning. Robert had been getting cleanings at New Home quarterly and it had been a year since his last one. He also had a sedation cleaning/check-up when he first moved into New Home in order to get any extractions or cavities filled. That was three years ago and at the time, they told me Robert didn’t need anything done.
Now Robert needs several extractions and crowns and cavities filled?
I am not the biggest fan of New Home so it wouldn’t surprise me if the truth was somewhere in the middle.
The guy comes back and hands me a quote for $2,000 to take care of a small fraction of what the dentist had said was wrong.
Nowhere on the quote was a cleaning.
I asked about the cleaning, told him I wasn’t going to go through with any of the dental work at this time and asked for a full quote on everything the dentist had suggested.
After several minutes, he returns with the revised quote. It is $20,000 worth of dental work although with the Dental-Cal insurance it is “only” $10,000.
These people are crazy.
The cleaning is $89 plus the $25 for Dental-Cal insurance.
I agree to the cleaning and the dentist returns with the Dental Assistant who seems to be the only caring person in the building.
The dentist still has no real communication with Robert who gets increasingly uncomfortable during the procedure. I reassure him, tell him his gums are going to hurt a little and to relax. The dentist continues with her work and only breaks when Robert complains about his back hurting and then a short time later has a coughing fit.
I do my best to reassure him and tell him it will be over soon.
While waiting for this nightmare to be over, I decided to Google this particular location and see if there were any bad reviews.
The Yelp reviews popped up and I was kicking myself for not checking them before the appointment. All but two were horrendous (and described our experience in varying degrees). Someone even called out the two positive reviews and said they were written by employees!
In the meantime, there are other patients in the back area with us who are apparently regulars. They tell the employees they will see them next week, they exchange books with each other and act like this is their social gathering for the week. I wonder how much they are willing to shell out for this social hour.
Once the dentist is finished with Robert, she takes off her gloves and standing in front of me and over Robert, tells the Dental Assistant, “Well that was my challenge of the day.”
Um, I can hear you. (And so can Robert.)
The Dental Assistant finishes up by polishing Robert’s teeth but we cannot get out of there fast enough.
We couldn’t leave, however, because Robert had a restroom emergency which turned into a nightmare itself – he had an accident and I had left my regular car bag at home to restock it. Luckily, I had a mini-car bag in the car which contained briefs at least.
I finally cleaned him up, cleaned up the floor, and walked out to the reception area which by now was packed. Ah, that’s why they need all those chairs.
Several people were behind the reception desk yet not one asked to check me out. I asked who I was supposed to pay and one of them finally, begrudgingly, agreed to take my money.
Gee, so sorry to bother you.
By the time we left, two and a half hours had passed and only fifteen minutes (if that) was for the cleaning.
Obviously, we will not return to this facility but I have learned a valuable lesson:
Remember to Yelp when needed!
I have two reviews to write: a positive review for the Sacramento location of Hanger Prosthetics for their awesome service and a not so positive review of the Rancho Cordova location of Western Dental.[Reprinted from www.RobertsSister.com]